Telehealth has been on the back burner in pediatrics for many years. Also referred to as telemedicine, the use of online audio-visual platforms to provide "virtual" office visits for the evaluation and care of pediatric health issues took a substantial leap in utilization and popularity over the past two months. With the dramatic effect of the Covid 19 epidemic in highly limiting excursions of all kinds from the home, the opportunity to obtain truly effective, face to face communication with their children's doctor has proved highly and widely accepted. In man situations, a reasonably accurate diagnosis can be provided, and a plan that usually includes a combination of therapy suggestions and observation can be offered.
We have implemented telehealth in our practice for about a month now, and it seems to be working out very nicely. We and our patients have found the face to face communication quite good, providing a effective two way discussion. Some problems such as rashes, diarrhea/vomiting, upper respiratory illness are particularly suitable for remote evaluation. Obviously, families need to appreciate that there are lots of situations in which this type of visit is not going to work: sometimes eardrums need to be examined, lungs auscultated (that's the word), and throats tested for strep. Often a careful exam is very important including at checkups. Also, families should be aware that virtual visits are usually not going to result in antibiotic prescription and that sometimes a follow-up office visit is going to be necessary. And, of course, there are parents who simply prefer a conventional office visit.
Not surprisingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics and pediatric practice management consultants are predicting even after the Covid 19 movement restrictions are no longer necessary, the utilization of telemedicine is going to be staying with us. Moreover, in pediatrics, it is likely to find emerging new roles, such as rechecks of ongoing problems in which a exam is not necessary at each visit, and evaluation and therapy by behavioral providers and some subspecialists. And telemedicine is ideal for prenatal visits, allowing parents-to-be to conveniently "visit" a few prospective pediatricians without having to travel to multiple offices.
Once schools reopen, there will be multitudes of grateful parents (and students also). There will also be families that conclude that home schooling has become their new educational preference. But all parents will continue to appreciate the option of telehealth in situations in which it is appropriate.